This week is a harsh set of texts: between the distasterous wedding in Matthew 22 and the Golden Calf idol of Exodus 32 things are looking poor. (Quick note Narrative lectionary is doing the exact same Exodus passage, so we can all share resources this week).
But then, things are looking fairly poor in the world today. Between a global pandemic, economic havoc, and corruption in places like Belarus and the United States as well as a war breaking out on the border of Armenia and the ongoing burden of climate change, we might understand why this week’s passages are not the ones about feeling good.
Let’s start with the wedding text in Matthew 22 which talks about Jesus and the Bible’s ever increasing invitation for people to join the banquet. Professor Kenda Dean used to say that our job is not to shame people into the kingdom, but to party people into the kingdom. However, the warning here is clear, some people will get into the church who are not supposed to be there.
The banquet halls are open, and everyone is invited, but not everyone will dress accordingly. In this particular time in Hebrew and Greek culture dress (and masks which is another word for hypocrisy) were metaphors for behavior. Those who didn’t dress for the wedding? You can be sure that they were not behaving like Christians.
In my context of the United States this metaphor could be prevented. In a time when we too often rely upon how people look, we tend to think that those who are Christians are the ones who fit in, or at least look like us. There is a clear way in the way we treat people of color and the queer community and how we treat them as suspicious based upon their differences that we want to kick them out. It’s a terrible sin.
Jesus is trying to make it clear that it is behavior, not looks, that defines how we get into the kingdom. We may think we are a part of the banquet, Christianity, heaven, but our behavior–our clothing so to speak–gives us away, and will no doubt end badly.
Touching upon the Exodus passage, the people here are alone and scared and need to blame/depend upon some kind of God. They want some kind of power to save them. Taking responsibility for their own fate, or seeking God on their own does not occur to them. I find it very interesting that no one follows Moses up the mountain. They are very scared of God, so they instead make a tame one.
The sin of needing to control is expressed differently than in Matthew, but it is the same sin all the same. We want to tell God who to be for us, based upon our expectations, instead of freeing ourselves to experience grace.
Psalm 106 discusses how Moses stood in the breach, reminding God of God’s own promise to always take care of us, even when we are idiots. It is, no doubt, from this idol problem that the 10 commandments were created. (Remember Jesus says the laws are for us). The commandments stand as a guide, because otherwise we humans will not know what to do/wear/how to behave for the banquet.
In Philippians 4 Paul commends the work of his co-workers–notably two women Euodia and Syntyche–saying that each is equally welcome in the kingdom. No doubt reminding the Philippians that the banquet is not about hierarchy–note the open invitition. Paul gives a kind reminder of what to wear/how to behave at the banquet. He talks about that God is first and foremost, and is a present God.,
Then he closes with the behavioral prescription and ascription to work for: Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.
Let us know where these texts are leading you this week? Do you find anything particularly apropos to your situation? Feel free to share with the rest of Revgals where you are.
Katy Stenta is a solo pastor at a tiny church that is bigger on the inside in Albany, NY since 2020 and blogs prayers & Narrative Lectionary at http://www.katyandtheword.com She is also the co-founder of the fledgling TrailPraisers inclusive Worship. When she is not dreaming up projects and ideas, some of which creep into the church, she plays with her three boys-boys or goes and visits her husband at the library, while he works, to read.
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